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Encouraging Exercise
Louise_WebMD_Staff posted:
My mother is using her wheelchair more and more often. Her doctor wants her doing more exercise but she is doing less and less. It is getting harder for her to walk even short distances--primarily because she just doesn't walk.

Do you have any tips for how a caregiver can encourage exercise?
GAP1954 responded:
This exercise question often comes up in the various support groups we sponsor and the glib answer is "anyway you can". But getting your Mom or any person who needs to maintain as much physical mobility as possible to actually do the exercise or therapy is not so easy. Here is an idea that has worked very well for some people.

If there is a local children's park, a play center, or something where there are somewhat older children who regularly come and play, or if there are any children in your neighborhood that you could get to come and "play" with mom, this can be a catalyst to getting her out of the chair for short periods of time. Kids are amazingly understanding if you explain to them the situation in simple terms like "mom needs to try and stand up more and even walk a little more but she is sad and does not want to try" then ask them to "play" with her. People with eye hand coordination needs benefit a lot from simple games of ball toss/catch with kids. They don't want to do these things with you - that is no fun. But with a kid they can see themselves in a new light - sort of like playing with a grandchild etc. Getting your mom up and moving with a kid's encouragement might be helpful.

Another technique is to keep a few things that your Mother wants just out of wheelchair access. Keep the situation safe but make it so she has to get up and take a step or two in order to reach something she uses on a regular basis. A box of tissues. The TV remote, whatever. She will not like you doing this but if she really wants to watch TV and actually physically can get out of the chair, she will.

Good luck. Always remember - if you do it, they won't.

Thanks for caring. Gary
Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
I have been thinking that the if you do it thing is a problem. I have been serving her meals in bed. It started on really bad days and then it just got to be habit. Hmmm out of reach.
Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
Giggle, over the weekend she wanted me to hand her another book from the library stack. I told her that someone on my message board told me that she needed to get up and get herself. Her eyes got big. But, she did get up and get it.

I also have removed the companion chair from her room and replaced it with the walker. She has been a little grumbly about it but has so far done more walking.

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